TREA­SURE TROVE OF CHI­NESE CUL­TURE

Beijing (English) - - SPECIAL REPORT -

De­spite the fact that the splen­dour and glory of the Tang Dy­nasty is no longer, the spirit of the times with its op­ti­mism, con­fi­dence and open­ness; its en­ter­pris­ing spirit with its courage to lead trends and pro­mote in­no­va­tion; and its in­clu­sive spirit with its in­te­gra­tion of di­verse cul­tures and pur­suit of ex­cel­lency have all been in­cor­po­rated into the blood of the Chi­nese peo­ple.

Shaanxi Prov­ince was home to the cap­i­tal cities of 13 dy­nas­ties in­clud­ing the Zhou (1046–256 BC), Qin (221–206 BC), Han (202 BC–220 AD) and Tang, which were some of China’s most pros­per­ous em­pires. These dy­nas­ties left be­hind abun­dant cul­tural lega­cies and a pro­found ac­cu­mu­la­tion of cul­ture, form­ing the unique his­tory and cul­ture of Shaanxi and be­stow­ing the prov­ince with a long his­tory and bril­liant cul­ture.

The Re­s­plen­dent Ob­jects from the Tang Dy­nasty Ex­hi­bi­tion jointly hosted by the Na­tional Mu­seum of China, the Shaanxi Pro­vin­cial In­sti­tute of Arche­ol­ogy and sev­eral Shaanxi mu­se­ums, has awak­ened peo­ple’s nos­tal­gia for the Tang Em­pire. These re­s­plen­dent ob­jects demon­strate the pas­sage of time and changes in ways of life by cre­at­ing slices of his­tory and pre­sent­ing them to vis­i­tors. Af­ter the ex­hi­bi­tion in Bei­jing, the ex­hibits will re­turn to the col­lec­tions of the var­i­ous lo­cal mu­se­ums, at which time, any­one who wants to see them will have to make the trip there.

Fa­men Tem­ple Mu­seum

Ap­prox­i­mately 2,000 years ago, sev­eral relics of the Bud­dha’s body made a long jour­ney across deserts and moun­tains and ar­riv­ied in the land of Zhouyuan, in what is present-day Shaanxi Prov­ince.

More than 1,000 years ago, Fa­men Tem­ple was des­ig­nated an im­pe­rial tem­ple of the Tang Dy­nasty. Hailed as the “An­ces­tor of Pagoda Tem­ples in Cen­tral Shaanxi,” it rep­re­sents the un­prece­dented splen­dour of the Tang Em­pire.

More than three decades ago, 2,499 pre­cious cul­tural relics from the Tang Dy­nasty were un­earthed from an un­der­ground palace be­neath the tem­ple dur­ing arche­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tions. Dat­ing back 1,113 years, these dis­cov­er­ies stunned the world.

A to­tal of 121 gold and sil­ver ob­jects en­shrined by the Tang im­pe­rial fam­ily, the first im­pe­rial se­cret celadon porce­lain wares to ever be dis­cov­ered, glazed ob­jects from an­cient Rome, var­i­ous tex­tiles in­clud­ing bro­cades, silk, satin and em­broi­deries such as cloth­ing be­long­ing to Tang em­per­ors and em­presses such as Wu Ze­tian, as well as a fin­ger bone relic of the Bud­dha that had been sought by Bud­dhists around the world for cen­turies, were all brought to light. These ob­jects be­came the key to un­lock­ing the mys­ter­ies about the pol­i­tics, eco­nom­ics, cul­ture and for­eign ex­changes dur­ing the Tang Dy­nasty.

Fa­men Tem­ple and Fa­men Pagoda have sur­vived a tu­mul­tuous his­tory, the rise and fall of dy­nas­ties, and the whims of monar­chs. The Es­o­teric Bud­dhist cul­ture of the Tang Dy­nasty, which was be­lieved to have been lost for cen­turies, was re­tained in the Fa­men Tem­ple and cast far-reach­ing in­flu­ence on the de­vel­op­ment of Bud­dhist cul­ture in Asia. By de­cod­ing the mys­ter­ies in these cul­tural lega­cies, much has been added to the study of Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion and Bud­dhism.

The Fa­men Tem­ple Mu­seum was estab­lished and opened to vis­i­tors in 1988 to pre­serve these pre­cious cul­tural relics. Af­ter more than 30 years of de­vel­op­ment, the mu­seum ded­i­cated to the col­lec­tion, pro­tec­tion, re­search and ex­hi­bi­tion of the cul­tural relics un­earthed from the un­der­ground palace at the Fa­men Tem­ple, as well as the his­tory and cul­ture they rep­re­sent, has con­tin­ued to ex­pand, be­com­ing a ris­ing star among his­tory mu­se­ums in China. It has hosted a wide range of ex­hi­bi­tions re­lated to the tem­ple and its finds re­lated to its his­tory and cul­ture, Bud­dhist cul­ture, Tang-dy­nasty Es­o­teric Bud­dhist man­dala cul­ture, Tang-dy­nasty trea­sures and Tang-dy­nasty tea cul­ture.

Im­pe­rial tea sets from the Tang Dy­nasty un­earthed from the un­der­ground palace of the Fa­men Tem­ple were orig­i­nally pre­sented to the tem­ple by Em­peror Xi­zong. The tea sets are made of gold and sil­ver, and each had a spe­cial pur­pose, demon­strat­ing that tea was

al­ready pop­u­lar as far back as the Tang Dy­nasty. These tea sets also ap­pear in the ex­hi­bi­tion at the Na­tional Mu­seum of China, stun­ning vis­i­tors by show­cas­ing the ex­quis­ite im­pe­rial tea cer­e­monies from the Tang pe­riod.

Xi’an Mu­seum

A com­bi­na­tion of mu­seum, his­tor­i­cal site and ur­ban gar­den, Xi’an Mu­seum is noted for its col­lec­tion of rare cul­tural relics, mil­len­nium-old an­cient pagoda, melodic bells that chime ev­ery morn­ing in the Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda and its pic­turesque gar­den land­scapes.

The mu­seum houses 130,000 cul­tural relics un­earthed in Xi’an from var­i­ous his­tor­i­cal pe­ri­ods, of which 14,400 are na­tional third-grade relics or above. In ad­di­tion, a large pro­por­tion can be traced back to im­por­tant dy­nas­ties in Chi­nese his­tory, such as the Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang. The cul­tural relics on dis­play in the mu­seum are high-grade, hugely in­flu­en­tial and have been care­fully se­lected from its col­lec­tion.

There are three types of ex­hi­bi­tions in Xi’an Mu­seum: ba­sic, spe­cial­ist and tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions. The mu­seum utilises mod­ern au­dio­vi­sual tech­nol­ogy to dis­play the cul­tural relics. By fus­ing real ob­jects with high-tech meth­ods of ex­hi­bi­tion such as vir­tual books, holo­graphic pro­jec­tions, dig­i­tal-vir­tual pre­sen­ta­tions, in­ter­ac­tive ex­hi­bi­tions and dig­i­tal relic nav­i­ga­tion, the mu­seum has not only en­riched its ex­hi­bi­tions but also man­aged to vividly dis­play its cul­tural relics and re­vive the his­tory of the an­cient cap­i­tal.

Apart from the ex­hi­bi­tion hall, the grounds of the mu­seum are also well worth a visit.

The Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda, for­merly known as the Jianfu Tem­ple Pagoda, was built in AD 707 dur­ing the Jin­g­long reign of Em­peror Zhong­zong of the Tang Dy­nasty to store Bud­dhist scrip­tures and draw­ings brought back from In­dia by the em­i­nent monk Yi­jing. Ini­tially, the pagoda was a tetrag­o­nal, 15-storey brick-built pagoda with dense eaves.

Its el­e­gant ar­chi­tec­tural style is in sharp con­trast with the mag­nif­i­cent, solemn style of the Gi­ant Wild Goose Pagoda. Dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644), the 14th and 15th sto­ries of the pagoda were de­stroyed by earth­quakes. How­ever, the cracks that ap­peared were later fixed, in what is known as the “marvelous restora­tion of the Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda.” The pagoda to­day has 13 sto­ries and re­tains the orig­i­nal ap­pear­ance that it had when it was con­structed dur­ing the early Tang Dy­nasty.

The Jianfu Tem­ple was first built in 684, the first year of the Wen­ming reign of Em­peror Ruizong of the Tang Dy­nasty. The Bud­dhist tem­ple was con­structed by Em­peror Ruizong, also known as Li Dan, to pray for bless­ings af­ter the death of his fa­ther, Em­peror Gao­zong. The ex­ist­ing ar­chi­tec­tural com­plex of the Jianfu Tem­ple was re­built dur­ing the Ming and Qing (1644–1911) dy­nas­ties. The an­cient build­ings in the tem­ple roughly main­tain the lay­out of when it was re­con­structed dur­ing the Zheng­tong reign of the Ming Dy­nasty. Most of the tem­ple’s halls sit along a cen­tral axis link­ing the front gate to the Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda. From south to north there are sev­eral build­ings in­clud­ing the front gate, Bell and Drum Tow­ers, Cishi

Fa­men Tem­ple Mu­seum

Xi’an Mu­seum

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